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Monday, October 11, 2010

What I'm thinking about this morning.

I'm not funny anymore. At least, not like I used to be. For many years my sole focus in any conversation was to find the hook--something I could grab and bring to the foreground, something out of the ordinary and humorous which would cause people to laugh and relax and not notice what I was really seeing or thinking. Laughter, to me, meant safety; no personal questions, no meaningful disclosures, no uncomfortable closeness.

I was never mean or scathing--I made certain of that. There was enough caustic humor in my home growing up. It served to tear down each child and destroy any vestige of self-esteem one might be lucky enough to encounter. My point was never to belittle or destroy--simply to make people laugh, point out things that were funny, distract them. I would leave each social encounter allowing people to believe I was carefree, and delightful, and witty.

I once had a Laurel advisor who saw through me. I had disrupted our class for the millionth time, leaving my classmates in stitches. She waited until class was over and asked me to remain with her. I did, knowing she would reprimand me, tell me how hard she worked on her lessons, let me know I was robbing the other girls of their opportunity to learn...but she didn't. She told me instead what a wonderful talent I had, how clever I was, how much she loved having me in her much she loved me. She said she had always felt a closeness to me, a kinship/sisterhood. No one had ever said that to me before. Under normal circumstances, and with anyone else, I would have sensed manipulation. With her, there was none.

My Laurel advisor told me that when I made a comment during class, she knew I was really listening. She said she prepared her lessons, often, wondering where I would chime in and bring a lightness and joy to the class. Then she looked carefully into my eyes, not allowing me to turn away and said, "Sam, I asked you to stay because I believe the reason you try to make people laugh is because you're afraid to think too deeply--but you do. You're always thinking. Someday, maybe you should share those deep thoughts with the class, along with your fun humor. I think they...I think I would benefit from many of the things you think about."

She was completely wrong, of course. In those days all I thought about was how soon I could leave my home and how much I hated my mother. I would ponder whether wearing a size one meant I'd gained too much weight that month, and set a goal in my Personal Progress to lose fifteen more pounds--after all, I'd broken triple digits. 101 was too much for me to weigh. My mother would definitely have something to say about that. I pondered how to avoid the young men at school, and wondered if I'd have opportunity to gaze at or even sit by, the beautiful young woman I was currently in love with. I despised God, and often spent hours being angry that such a being was a part of the spiritual construct imposed on me. I buried myself in archaic literature and poetry. And through it all, I pushed back feelings of intense loneliness, refused to cry--ever, and wondered how to sleep at night.

I was surprised, however, at my Laurel advisor's repeated attempts to reach me. She shared much of her own life with me. She told me of joys and sorrows she experienced. She taught me to make Ukrainian Eggs, and asked me to accompany her when she sang. She called me her sister.

She was unsuccessful, of course. I wasn't ready to be seen by anyone. And quite honestly, I knew that if I told her any part of the things that made me ache, she could not help me. No one could.

And so, I continued to be funny, and happy, and delightful. And many people remembered me but never knew me, which only served to convince me that people don't really want close relationships, but are much happier entertaining one another and never connecting. But inside I knew I was dying. I couldn't decide if that was because of the things that had happened to me, or because I was floating through life alone, unable to let anyone close for fear of being discovered and rejected.

When I began seeing a therapist, I decided I wasn't going to do this therapy crap halfway. I'd read and studied. I'd learned about the importance of being nurtured as an infant, child, even adult. I had found information about the role of healthy touch in human development. I'd asked questions and researched human relationships and loneliness. And I had self-diagnosed myself as lacking in nurturing, touch deprived, and devoid of real human relationships outside of my relationship with Darrin. I had no friends with whom I felt I could just talk, none I could comfortably go to lunch with or ask to go for walks...which does not mean I didn't do those things, they just made me intensely uncomfortable and grateful when they were over.

I've made some huge changes in the past few years. I no longer feel intimidated about asking someone to spend time with me, and I'm okay if they're unable. I understand that they wish to--and that's important. The rejection factor is so far gone that when, occasionally, I'm made aware that someone really does not wish to interact with me, my only reaction is complete surprise--followed, naturally, by some regret and sadness, but I think that's healthy.

I've found places where touch does not feel frightening or intrusive, and I've purposely asked for or allowed that touch to happen. It's still not easy. I still have to remind myself no harm will come to me. There are still times when I don't want to be touched at all and the thought of it nauseates me. But those times are less overwhelming and I understand better why they are happening.

I've learned to speak of things that hurt or frighten me. I've stopped worrying if the person I'm conversing with is entertained or happy. There are times when I focus completely on me and what I need to say. That has NEVER happened before in my life. I don't know how this makes the people listening to me feel. I think, probably, my words feel self-indulgent and unnecessary. But I need to say them--I've needed to say them for a very long time--and now I do.

I no longer shy away from conversations which involve personal information. I answer questions about myself. I don't always volunteer information, but sometimes I do. I've become more interested in whether or not my interactions with others are balanced and healthy, than in how much information I can gather about the person with whom I'm speaking without sharing anything about myself.

All in all, I think I'm much healthier, emotionally, than I was a decade ago. But in the process of becoming so, I've ceased to be funny. I don't even care, really, about making people laugh. I don't think my Laurel advisor would recognize the person I've become. I know my siblings don't--and they don't really like the Samantha who no longer listens constantly or only entertains, if speaking. And this new position of balanced relationships, where others know as much about me as I know of them, feels precarious and temporary. I don't know how to change that.

I was noticing, as I read over my previous blog and even some very early entries of this one, that my writing, initially, was very concerned that I entertain anyone who might happen to land here. I don't seem to care about that anymore. Real is better than funny right now. I need this place to express what's happening to me, and I think it's okay if that's the direction this blog has taken.

I still laugh, although perhaps not as often.


  1. "Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

    Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

    Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

    Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

    It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
    — Margery Williams Bianco (The Velveteen Rabbit) glad you are real.- hugs A.J.

  2. I love these realizations. And as far as I can tell, I totally support your assessment. Not that you need that, being all balanced 'n stuff. ;-)

  3. Hmmm...I'll let you know, A.J., in a few years, if I'm glad, as well.

    OM--I think you just like to watch me squirm as I try to figure out who I am... :-)